Predicting Every $100 Million MLB Contract Signed During 2021-22 Offseason

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistNovember 9, 2021

Predicting Every $100 Million MLB Contract Signed During 2021-22 Offseason

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    With an abundance of top-tier talent hitting the open market in free agency, this offseason has a chance to reshape the MLB landscape.

    A loaded middle infield class that includes Carlos Correa, Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Javier Baez and Trevor Story headlines the market, but they are by no means the only players headed for a lucrative payday this winter.

    We've taken a crack at predicting every $100 million contract that will be handed out this offseason, with 10 players in total expected to crack that nine-figure threshold.

    Before diving into the 10 guys we expect to cash in, let's kick things off with a few players who are also in the $100 million conversation but we think will ultimately come up short.

    Off we go!

Others Who Could Approach $100 Million

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    SS Javier Baez

    Baez has made it abundantly clear he wants to stay with the Mets and play alongside Francisco Lindor. His stock has slid a bit since he turned down a $180 million extension offer from the Chicago Cubs prior to the 2020 season, and that's now a figure he is unlikely to reach. He could bet on himself with a three-year deal, which would mean free agency again at the age of 31 if he can return to his MVP-caliber form.

    Prediction: Three years, $72 million


    RF Nick Castellanos

    Castellanos signed a four-year, $64 million contract last time he was a free agent, and he opted out of the final two years and $32 million earlier this month in hopes of securing an even bigger commitment. He is still just 29 years old, and coming off a 136 OPS+ with 34 home runs and 100 RBI, but defensive shortcomings still limit his value.

    Prediction: Four years, $72 million


    CF Starling Marte

    The best center field option on the market by a landslide, Marte hit .310/.383/.458 with 42 extra-base hits and 47 steals in a 4.7-WAR season split between Miami and Oakland. He turned down a three-year, $30 million extension offer in July, and should have no problem exceeding that average annual value, but at 33 years old he is likely not a candidate for anything beyond three or four years.

    Prediction: Three years, $54 million


    LHP Carlos Rodon

    A lengthy history of injuries, coupled with the fact that he threw just 43 innings after the All-Star break, make Rodon one of the riskier free agents on the market. The 28-year-old had a 2.37 ERA with 185 strikeouts in 132.2 innings, and the White Sox opted against extending him a qualifying offer which helps his negotiating power, but there's too much risk to justify a long-term deal. A shorter contract with a higher annual value makes more sense.

    Prediction: Two years, $36 million


    IF/OF Chris Taylor

    The 110 OPS+ and 2.7 WAR that Taylor logged in 2021 does not properly illustrate how valuable the versatile veteran can be to any contender's roster. The 31-year-old played at least eight games at six different positions this year, and he racked up 49 extra-base hits and 92 runs scored along the way. The four-year, $56 million deal Ben Zobrist signed with the Chicago Cubs is a logical starting point, but Zobrist was four years older, so Taylor should be able to secure another year or two and perhaps a higher annual value. He has the best chance of anyone on this list of surpassing the $100 million mark.

    Prediction: Five years, $80 million

Marcus Stroman

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Contract Prediction: Five years, $100 million

    Marcus Stroman had the least impressive 2021 numbers of the three top-tier starters of this year's free-agent class, but he may also be the safest bet of the bunch to perform over the length of a long-term deal thanks to his long track record of success.

    The 30-year-old posted a 3.02 ERA, 133 ERA+ and 1.15 WHIP with 158 strikeouts in 179 innings in 2021, and it marked the fourth time in his career he has eclipsed 175 innings.

    He has never been a big strikeout pitcher, and that hurts his profile a bit, but he does generate a ton of groundballs with his bowling-ball sinker. He also brings with him a type of intensity that can be contagious.

    After earning $18.9 million on the qualifying offer last year, he was not eligible to receive one this offseason, and that should help him negotiate a modest raise and long-term security from the contender of his choosing.

Trevor Story

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    Contract Prediction: Five years, $110 million

    Like many Colorado Rockies free agents before him, Trevor Story hits the open market with the stigma of Coors Field production hanging squarely over his head.

    Here's a look at his career splits:

    • Home: 375 G, .303/.369/.603, 216 XBH (95 HR), 24.7 K%
    • Away: 370 G, .241/.310/.442, 149 XBH (63 HR), 30.6 K%

    DJ LeMahieu helped shake reservations a bit by taking his offensive game to another level after exiting Colorado and joining the New York Yankees, but it remains a talking point nonetheless.

    That said, even in a down year by his standards Story was still a 4.2-WAR player, and he brings more to the table than just power production. He swiped 20 bases for the third time in four years in 2021, and he is an above-average defensive shortstop.

    The 28-year-old will likely have to wait until Carlos Correa and Corey Seager sign before his market takes shape, but there will still be a nine-figure payday waiting for him once those first two dominoes fall.

Marcus Semien

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    Contract: Four years, $112 million

    Marcus Semien took a one-year, $18 million pillow contract with the Toronto Blue Jays last offseason and promptly raised his stock as much as any player in baseball.

    The 31-year-old hit .265/.334/.538 for a 133 OPS+ while slugging 45 home runs to set the new single-season record for second basemen.

    The question now becomes whether he will try to shift back to shortstop, or if he is content sticking at second base where he was a Gold Glove finalist.

    Since he is older than the other top middle infielders in the class, a four-year deal might be his cap in terms of length, but that doesn't mean he can't still secure a massive raise over what he earned in 2021. A four-year, $112 million deal would be a $10 million raise per year, and it might open up his market a bit more with some teams hesitant to go to five years on any deal.

Max Scherzer

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    Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

    Contract Prediction: Three years, $115 million

    Max Scherzer has a compelling case to become the highest-paid player in baseball.

    Even at 37 years old, he is still one of baseball's elite pitchers, having just posted a 2.46 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 236 strikeouts in 179.1 innings. That included a dominant final two months after he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the deadline.

    Given his age, he is likely not going to find anyone willing to go beyond three years on his next contract. That means less long-term risk and more short-term negotiating power.

    In theory, it's a safer investment to sign Scherzer to a record-setting, short-term deal than it is to sign one of the market's other top pitchers to a nine-figure deal stretched over five-plus years.

    A two-year, $80 million contract might be enough to get a deal done, especially if it's the Dodgers who come in with that offer, but here's betting someone will be willing to offer a third year to land a player who could legitimately be their missing piece.

Kevin Gausman

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    Contract Prediction: Five years, $120 million

    After struggling to a 6.19 ERA in 16 starts with the Atlanta Braves in 2019 before closing out the year in the Cincinnati Reds bullpen, Kevin Gausman turned a flier contract from the San Francisco Giants in 2020 into a qualifying offer last offseason.

    The 30-year-old accepted the one-year, $18.9 million deal, banking on his stock continuing to climb over a full season, and he wound up being one of the best pitchers in baseball and the ace of the first-place Giants staff.

    He finished 14-6 with a 2.81 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 227 strikeouts in 192 innings, and while he stumbled a bit after the All-Star break, a strong September should help erase any concerns that his stellar first half was a fluke.

    There is always risk in paying for a player's career year, but the development of his splitter into one of baseball's most lethal putaway pitches over the past two seasons has helped take his game to another level, and that makes it easier to buy into the idea of his continued success.

Robbie Ray

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    Contract Prediction: Five years, $125 million

    There is not a bigger boom-or-bust player on this year's free-agent market than Robbie Ray.

    In a bubble, his 2021 season makes a case for him being one of baseball's elite pitchers, as he led the AL in ERA (2.84), WHIP (1.05), strikeouts (248) and innings pitched (193.1) en route to what will almost certainly be a Cy Young win.

    However, he is just a year removed from struggling to the tune of a 6.62 ERA with a staggering 45 walks in 51.2 innings, and he has battled inconsistent command throughout his career. The 30-year-old leaned more heavily on fastball-slider this year while throwing fewer curveballs, and that seemed to help him dial in those two pitches.

    There are regression concerns, starting with a 3.69 FIP that indicates luck was on his side in 2021.

    Still, there will be some team hungry for starting pitching willing to roll the dice on his breakout season being more-or-less sustainable. It's also worth noting that he's roughly 10 months younger than Kevin Gausman and four months younger than Marcus Stroman.

Freddie Freeman

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    Contract: Five years, $140 million

    The five-year, $130 million extension that Paul Goldschmidt signed with the St. Louis Cardinals should serve as a starting point in Freddie Freeman negotiations.

    Goldschmidt signed his long-term deal during his age-31 season, but it didn't begin until his age-32 season in 2020.

    Freeman just wrapped up his age-31 season and is now searching for a new contract, so there is a direct age comparison, and the two players have similar track records of well-rounded success.

    The biggest difference is that Freeman is a homegrown superstar, while Goldschmidt was a trade addition, and Atlanta is fresh off a World Series title.

    Letting the face of the franchise get away this winter would be an absolute PR disaster for the Braves, and offering him slightly more than the Goldschmidt deal should be a solid landing point for both sides.

    Would an outside team be willing to offer six years to try to pry him loose?

Kris Bryant

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    Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    Contract: Six years, $160 million

    Age, defensive versatility and peak-level performance are all chips in Kris Bryant's favor this offseason as he tests the free-agent market for the first time in his career.

    The 2016 NL MVP will not turn 30 years old until January, and after battling some injury issues in recent years, he was healthy and productive this season while posting a 124 OPS+ with 32 doubles, 25 home runs, 73 RBI, 86 runs scored and 3.3 WAR in 144 games.

    He saw regular action at his natural position of third base (55 games), while also spending time in left field (48), right field (39) and center field (19), and a corner outfield spot might be the best fit for him going forward.

    With Scott Boras as his agent, his free agency could draw out as he looks for the perfect fit and best possible offer. A six-year deal is a distinct possibility thanks to the fact that he is not yet 30 years old and provides value in a variety of different ways beyond just his power production.

Corey Seager

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    Contract: Eight years, $256 million

    Only 18 players in MLB history have signed a contract with an average annual value of $30 million or higher, and there will almost certainly be at least two more players joining that exclusive club this winter.

    A fractured hand cost Corey Seager 65 games in his contract year, but his production when healthy was more than enough to solidify his standing as an elite-level player and a deserving recipient of a megadeal this offseason.

    The 27-year-old hit .306/.394/.521 for a 145 OPS+ with 41 extra-base hits in 409 plate appearances, and that performance served as a continuation of a stellar 2020 season that concluded with NLCS and World Series MVP honors.

    He is an average defender at shortstop with some range limitations given his 6'4" frame and lack of quick-twitch athleticism, but his bat would play just fine at third base if he ultimately needs to make that move later in his career.

    An eight-year deal would run through his age-35 season, and it's not out of the question to think he could secure a 10-year deal.

Carlos Correa

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    Contract: 10 years, $350 million

    The Houston Astros made Carlos Correa a pair of extension offers last spring, starting with a six-year, $120 million proposal and then upping the pitch to a five-year, $125 million deal.

    The two sides were unable to come to terms, but the Astros have not given up hopes of re-signing their homegrown star, and earlier this month they made a five-year, $160 million offer.

    A $32 million AAV is nothing to sneeze at, but it's likely going to take more years and a higher annual salary than that to sign Correa this winter.

    Francisco Lindor signed a 10-year, $341 million extension with the New York Mets last April at the same point in his career coming off his age-26 season, and that's going to be the target for Correa to meet or exceed in negotiations.

    Correa posted a 131 OPS+ with 61 extra-base hits, and his 7.3 WAR trailed only Shohei Ohtani (9.0) and Zack Wheeler (7.7) among all players in 2021.

    The injury bug that plagued him early in his career is no longer a red flag after he played in 206 of 222 games the past two seasons, and his mix of power production, elite-level defense (21 DRS, 3.1 UZR/150) and postseason experience make him the top player on this year's market and a realistic candidate to exceed Lindor's contract.


    All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.